This week’s theme was cooking from the pantry, which I’m sure for most people means cooking with staples. For me, it was an opportunity to use something that’s been sitting in our freezer for months: elk.
We don’t cook a lot of game, but occasionally we get a few pieces of whatever my Dad brings home from his hunting trips. I’d never had elk and wasn’t completely sure what to do with it, which was a big part of why it spent so long in the freezer. I thought of the fabulous deer chops at Lonesome Dove, and Dale’s incredible looking elk loin from the Top Chef 3 finale and figured I’d try something similar—spice rubbed and pan fried with a simple sauce.
I did a little research and the USDA assured me that properly frozen food remains safe indefinitely, and storage time is really only a question of taste. I moved the loin to the fridge to defrost and checked for freezerburn, discoloration, or strange odors the next day. Everything looked good!
We didn’t have any star anise on hand, but we did have some Five Spice Blend (another ingredient I’ve been meaning to use), which includes star anise, cinnamon, clove, fennel, and white pepper. To play up the Asian flavors in the rub I added some ground coriander, and a bit of chili powder to give it some of that Western cowboy flavor.
I served the elk with a side of Great Northern beans pureed with a bit of rosemary and olive oil. It all looked good, but having never cooked it before I was fully prepared for the elk to be awful. Thankfully everything turned out well – the elk was a nice medium rare, had a bit of that gamey flavor, and went well with the sauce. The rosemary was a nice addition to the beans, although I was initially worried I had used a bit too much.
Without the challenge this week I’m sure I would have declared “we don’t have anything for dinner” and we would have headed out to the store—and who knows how long it would have been before we ever tried the elk. So take a look in your freezer—you might be surprised what you can make!
Five Spice Elk Loin
- 4 pieces sliced elk loin
- 1 tablespoon oil
- For the rub:
- Five Spice
- Ground coriander
- Chili powder
- Salt + pepper
- For the sauce:
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup Madeira
- 1 sprig fresh tyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons butter
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Rub the elk with the spice blend and sear on all sides. Remove elk and allow it to rest while you make the sauce. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and Maderia and add the herbs. Allow the mixture to reduce by half, then remove from the heat and swirl in the butter. Strain the sauce.
Rosemary white bean puree
- 1 can Great Northern beans
- Leaves from 1/4 sprig rosemary
- Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
Heat the beans and rosemary together and blend, drizzling in a little olive oil. Add salt as needed.